I couldn't help but notice. The little girl with her bouncy hair was skipping alongside her dad, sing-songing to him an account of the day's activities as he reached for her hand. He was picking her up from her school's after care program and she appeared quite happy. Maybe she was content just to be going home or perhaps she was in a skipping mood because she was with the person who loves her most in the world.
She looked sweet in her little skirt and tights. Her appearance suggests she is well cared for and healthy. That's a pretty good accomplishment for any parent, but for a single dad raising a daughter alone, it's an even bigger achievement. Fathers don't automatically know how to detangle knotted hair or differentiate between lip balm and lip gloss, but the good ones make the effort.
I'm sure it's not easy sometimes being the only male in the group waiting for his little girl to finish dance class. When talk turns to female issues, I can only imagine his discomfort. Yet he hangs in there for the child who adores him because he is the daddy who shows up for the school programs even when it might mean a later shift at the office another day.
For decades we have heard about single mothers. There have been thousands of books, articles and stories written about and for single moms. Movies have been made depicting the plight of single moms who, whether by choice or tragedy, raise their children alone in a two-parent society. Some of these stories have become fodder for politicians. including the "Murphy Brown" TV show that set off a firestorm of controversy because a woman chose to have and raise a baby without benefit of a father.
Much less attention has been given to the dads out there who struggle to be mother and father to their kids. Past generations are aghast at the idea of a male serving as the head of the household, doing the cooking, shopping and diaper changing.
Today, that type of arrangement is not so uncommon. Economics dictate that two parents bring home the bacon and share the responsibility of frying it up. While dad is at Little League with Junior, mom is at swim practice with Little Sister. But when it's just one parent trying to meet the needs of several children, there are fewer Norman Rockwell days and more "Full House"scenarios.
Parenting, whether for a single mother or dad or a two-parent household, is a book that continues to be rewritten day after day.
Every time some child-rearing expert puts the finishing chapter on a "how-to" book on raising kids, the dynamics change and their words become obsolete.
I tip my hat to those fathers who have hung in there and manned up to their responsibilities when it would be easier to walk away.
And just know that when a little girl is skipping next to her dad, he is doing something right.
Heather Ziegler can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.